An den Schlaf, D 447

To sleep

(Poet's title: An den Schlaf)

Set by Schubert:

  • D 447

    [June 1816]

An den Schlaf

Komm, und senke die umflorten Schwingen,
Süßer Schlummer, auf den müden Blick!
Segner! Freund! in deinen Armen dringen
Trost und Balsam auf’s verlorne Glück.

To sleep

Come and lower your gentle wings
Over my tired eyes, sweet sleep!
Bless me, friend! Your arms deliver
Comfort and balm for my lost happiness.

There are plenty of hints that the language here is not ‘literal’. Sleep is said to have both ‘wings’ that can settle over our eyes and ‘arms’ which embrace us to deliver comfort and balm. It can deliver a blessing and act as a friend. Yes, an insomniac might long for actual sleep to bring about some sort of healing, but we are left with the suspicion that the sleep being addressed here will offer annihilation rather than recovery. Perhaps the title should be ‘An den Tod’, To Death.

Note in Schochow: “Schubert nennt Uz als Dichter, doch findet sich die Strophe nicht unter den Gedichten von Uz.” – Schubert names Uz as the author of this text, but these lines have not been found among Uz’s poems.